Happy birthday to legendary Detroit-born R&B record guy Nat Tarnopol

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He passed away in 1987, but legendary Detroit producer Nat Tarnopol would be 84 years-old if he were alive today. This guy had such a fascinating life and career it really should be made into a big, flashy Hollywood biopic. As a kid, he was obsessed with baseball and R&B music, but his parents wanted him to be a rabbi. Offered to sign to the Tigers and the White Sox, he opted instead to work at Union tire in the day and hang out in black clubs at night — specifically the Flame Show Bar.


In the mid 1950s, Tarnopol met Jackie Wilson, becoming his manager at 25 years of age. He worked for Decca, Brunswick and then Roulette as an A&R man and producer. 


To quote our friends from All Music Guide about the rest of Tarnopol's career: "Tarnopol does deserve some credit for helping to rejuvenate the Brunswick label, and [Jackie] Wilson's career, by getting talented Chicago producer Carl Davis to head the A&R department (and eventually become vice president). Under Davis' lead, Brunswick became an important force in soul in the late '60s and early '70s, not only with Wilson but also Gene Chandler, Barbara Acklin, and the Chi-Lites... Wilson's career came to end when he suffered a heart attack and lapsed into a coma in the mid-'70s. Tarnopol spent much of his last decade continuing to fight major legal problems before dying in 1987."

About The Author

Mike McGonigal

Metro Times music editor Mike McGonigal has written about music since 1984, when he started the fanzine Chemical Imbalance at age sixteen with money saved from mowing lawns in Florida. He's since written for Spin, Pitchfork, the Village VOICE and Artforum. He's been a museum guard, a financial reporter, a bicycle...
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